HMS Tamar’s Indian Adventure Begins in Andaman Islands
HMS Tamar became only the second Royal Navy warship to visit Andaman and Nicobar in three decades as its five-year patrol shifts to the Indian Ocean for the first time.
The patrol ship spent five days in Port Blair, capital of the islands – roughly 600 miles East of the Indian mainland – as Tamar switches focus to the Indian Ocean and the ‘Indo’ element of her Indo-Asia-Pacific mission.
To date the ship, plus her sister HMS Spey have concentrated their efforts in Asia/the western Pacific Rim and Oceania.
So to gain a greater understanding of the region and the challenges of operating in the vast Bay of Bengal, Tamar’s command team immediately sat down with the Indian regional commander, Lieutenant General Ajai Singh and the UK’s Defence and Naval Attaches, as well as the local Indian Navy commanders to discuss joint patrols, exercises and look at opportunities to work together.
Tamar herself hosted India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh – the ship’s visit to Port Blair and patrol of the Indian Ocean builds on the visit of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group to the country in 2021 and raises the curtain on further engagement later this year with frigate HMS Lancaster, based in Bahrain, and a Royal Marines amphibious task group – as well as a ceremonial evening reception/sunset ceremony for local VIPs and residents, attended by a good 80 people all eager to learn more both about the ship and her mission in the region.
As well as the usual ceremonial formalities, the five-day visit to Port Blair, capital of the chain of islands which stretch north to south for nearly 500 miles in the eastern Indian Ocean, allowed for some more unusual activities, including a yoga session led by Padmini Jog – one of the country’s most respected teachers and revered by the Indian Armed Forces. Among her followers are the Indian and UK prime ministers.
Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith, Tamar’s Commanding Officer, said that throughout his ship’s stay, he and his sailors were warmly received with widespread interest shown by the Andaman populace, Indian Armed Forces and the Indian media who gave the patrol vessel extensive coverage.
“Tamar was the first Royal Navy warship to visit the islands since HMS Montrose – 16 years ago,” he said.
“Through coming here we have garnered a much better sense of the regional security challenges and how the UK can complement regional strategy in delivering security in the maritime domain.
“At the same time this is a destination combining tropical wonder and Indian colour, ensuring the ship’s company have had a spectacular experience they will never forget.”
Chef Gourav Pandey – who hails from India originally – said: “I took a road trip and could understand the cultural differences from mainland India by chatting in Hindi and Bengali. The clean beaches, birdlife and plants were really interesting and the food in the region was good.”
Midshipman Alice Ray added: “I loved the vibrancy: the islands were beautiful and the kindness of our hosts was striking.”
Throughout her stay Tamar was hosted by the Indian corvette INS Karmuk and upon sailing from Port Blair for the next leg of her Indian Ocean patrol, the two warships conducted various combined training in company with a Dornier maritime patrol aircraft.
“The work HMS Tamar and her crew are doing with allies, partners and friends across the Indo-Pacific is crucial,” said First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key. “As threats to global peace and stability mount, the Royal Navy values deeply its relationship with the Indian Navy in a shared endeavor to confront those who challenge the rules-based system and ensure peace and prosperity on and from the sea.”
Deputy British High Commissioner to India, Christina Scott, added: “HMS Tamar’s deployment is the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt in action; its visit, further evidence of the importance we attach to our defense and security relationship with India.
“The Indo-Pacific, and indeed India, will drive future growth and prosperity for the world. It is imperative that it remains free and open to all in support of trade, shared security and values.”